Cleveland State Community College opened its doors to the community Tuesday afternoon to celebrate a newfound partnership and location with The Caring Place’s Sac Pac program.
Volunteers for the program have operated out of a small upper room in The Caring Place’s food warehouse. The closed quarters allowed for only about six volunteers to work at a time and minimum storage for the packs. A partnership with Cleveland State allows students to receive service hours by volunteering at the program’s new location in the library basement.
Sac Pac coordinator Lee Ann Lowe is amazed at the progress since the move.
“Within 16 days, 25,000 pounds (approximately 5,500 bags) of food have been unwrapped and unloaded, bagged, boxed and partially delivered to 459 children in our county,” Lowe said. “Each one of these bags represents a child in our county.”
Lowe continued , “When they leave school Friday afternoon, they don’t know if they will have food. Unfortunately, this is a reality for the children, and that is where Sac Pac and its volunteers come in.”
Sac Pac is a feeding program offered through The Caring Place. Teachers at Charleston, Park View, North Lee, Oak Grove, Taylor, Waterville, Black Fox and Valley View elementary schools suggest students they believe would benefit from the extra food over the weekend. These students receive enough food for two breakfasts, two lunches or dinners, two gummy snacks, two granola bars, two shelf-stable milks, microwaveable macaroni and cheese and two juice boxes.
The food makes it easier on economically disadvantaged children who often depend on the free and reduced breakfasts and lunches offered at school.
Cleveland State Service-Learning Coordinator Sherry Holloway said the school is honored to have the Sac Pac program on campus.
CSCC President Dr. Carl Hite agreed, saying the service-learning component has been important to the college. He believes having the program on campus will only encourage the service-learning operations.
“I was amazed at the number of packs you packed. I think it is phenomenal what you are doing, especially when you realize how many kids have a long weekend, because they are anxious to get back to school so they can eat,” Hite said. “I think [TCP] addressed the concern, and you’ve addressed it well.”
Staff from The Caring Place were present for the event. Director Reba Terry was unable to make any remarks because she had lost her voice. Lowe spoke on behalf of the organization.
She reiterated the work completed since moving to Cleveland State has been rapid.
“We are currently seven weeks ahead because of the facilities and the work of the [volunteers]. We have run out of boxes, so we have [the packs] sitting everywhere,” Lowe said. “It is just a beautiful thing. I have many retired school teachers who help as our community volunteers who stand beside these 18, 19-year-old students who are at the beginning of making their life choices.”
Added Lowe, “It has just been a beautiful sense of community and confirmation of Cleveland State’s commitment to Cleveland and Bradley County.”
Cleveland State Vice President for Finance and Administration Dr. Tommy Wright took a moment to reflect on the work completed through the local nonprofit.
“[The Caring Place reminds] me of a quote from former South African President Nelson Mandela, ‘Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
He also thanked the maintenance department for their work to make room for the program in a portion of the library’s basement.
Cleveland State Director of Maintenance Guy Davis was asked to share a couple of words. He thanked his team for their hard work before turning his attention back to the Sac Pac program.
“Through the course of our interactions [with Lowe], my team and I have learned a lot about Sac Pac and a lot about what they do,” Davis said. “And I can say with complete honesty, everything the Sac Pac does is a blessing to Cleveland. It is a privilege to be a part of.”
The Caring Place board chairman Bob Hardin summed up the thanks felt by the organization.
“The Caring Place is about helping people who need help. For us to do this successfully, we need human resources, which are a great staff and a lot of volunteers. We need physical resources, which are places to stage what we are doing. And we need capital — we need equipment, we need money,” Hardin said. “Cleveland State has been over the top with their generosity for allowing us this facility.
“Thank you for serving the community by allowing us to stretch our hands further into the community.”
The Sac Pac program was made possible by a five-year descending grant offered through the United Way of Bradley County. The program has since been supplemented and expanded through individual and corporate donations. To learn more, visit www.thecaringplaceonline.org.